Images of the approach of NASA's spacecraft Dawn to the celestial body images suggest features such as large craters on the body's surface
The mission of NASA's Dawn spacecraft to the asteroid belt has entered into its second phase: after a more than year-long stay at the asteroid Vesta and an onward journey through space lasting almost two and a half years, Dawn is now quickly approaching the dwarf planet Ceres.
Ceres in sight: the camera system onboard of spacecraft DAWN captured this image of the dwarf planet from a distance of 380,000 kilometres, this corresponds roughly to the distance between the Earth and the moon. After careful image processing, features on the surface of Ceres become quite clear.
Current images already reach an image contrast surpassing all previously known images of Ceres and show first surface features such as craters. The camera system on board was developed under the lead of the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research.
The dwarf planet Ceres is a mysterious world, about which little is known. With a diameter of about 950 kilometers and a nearly spherical shape Ceres is more reminiscent of a planet than of the much smaller and irregularly shaped asteroids. Scientist deem it possible that 4.5 billion years ago, Ceres was on the best way to becoming a full-fledged planet – and got stuck in the middle of this evolution. Thus, in Ceres an early state of our solar system is preserved. In addition, the body's composition may well be as fascinating as its past: beneath the surface researchers suspect a frozen or maybe even liquid layer of water.
In the current images Ceres covers 27 pixels. “Already, the images hint at first surface structures such as craters”, says Dr. Andreas Nathues from the MPS, Framing Camera Lead Investigator. A striking bright spot can also be discerned. After careful image processing, these structures become even clearer. Due to the optical design of the camera system, the data surpass all previously known images in the resolution of these details. “We have identified all of the features seen by Hubble on the side of Ceres we have observed, and there are also suggestions of remarkable structures awaiting us as we move even closer,” says Nathues.
"It is exciting to see the surface of a new world slowly come into view," said Dr. Mark Sykes, CEO of the Planetary Science Institute in Tucson (USA), and a member of the Dawn Science Team. "Just confirming features observed by Hubble ten years earlier is important. With the recent detection of water vapor emission by Herschel Space Observatory, we will be looking for evidence of cryovolcanism and other processes to explain it.”
The researchers soon want to check whether Ceres is accompanied by smaller moons, and use the Framing Cameras’ color filters to get a first impression of the surface composition. "We are on the verge of testing hypotheses about an ice-rich surface resulting in relaxed equatorial craters and seeing if there are tectonics and other structures that will give us clues about interior oceans.”, says Nathues.
In September 2007 the Dawn spacecraft embarked on its journey to the asteroid belt which lies between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter. In 2011, the mission reached the asteroid Vesta and accompanied it for more than a year. MPS-scientists have succeeded in creating precise color maps of the asteroid and proven, among other things, that some materials on its surface did not originate from Vesta itself, but reached the asteroid by means of impacts. Since September 2012 Dawn has been en route to Ceres. After the camera system has pointed its gaze at starfields for more than two years, it is now again obtaining images of a target object on a regular basis.
The Dawn mission to Vesta and Ceres is managed by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory for NASA's Science Mission Directorate (SMD), Washington. It is a project of the Discovery Program, managed for SMD by NASA'sMarshall Space Flight Center, Huntsville, Ala. The University of California, Los Angeles, is responsible for overall Dawn mission science. Orbital Sciences Corporation of Dulles, Va., designed and built the Dawn spacecraft.
The framing cameras have been developed and built under the leadership of the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research, Göttingen, Germany, with significant contributions by the German Aerospace Center (DLR) Institute of Planetary Research, Berlin, and in coordination with the Institute of Computer and Communication Network Engineering, Braunschweig. The framing camera project is funded by the Max Planck Society, DLR, and NASA.
Dr. Birgit Krummheuer
Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research, Göttingen
Phone: +49 551 384979-462
Fax: +49 551 384979-240
Dr. Andreas Nathues
Framing Camera Lead Investigator
Phone: +49 551 384979-433
Dr. Birgit Krummheuer | Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research, Göttingen
First results of NSTX-U research operations
26.10.2016 | DOE/Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory
Scientists discover particles similar to Majorana fermions
25.10.2016 | Chinese Academy of Sciences Headquarters
Ultrafast lasers have introduced new possibilities in engraving ultrafine structures, and scientists are now also investigating how to use them to etch microstructures into thin glass. There are possible applications in analytics (lab on a chip) and especially in electronics and the consumer sector, where great interest has been shown.
This new method was born of a surprising phenomenon: irradiating glass in a particular way with an ultrafast laser has the effect of making the glass up to a...
Terahertz excitation of selected crystal vibrations leads to an effective magnetic field that drives coherent spin motion
Controlling functional properties by light is one of the grand goals in modern condensed matter physics and materials science. A new study now demonstrates how...
Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.
"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...
In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.
A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...
By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.
"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...
14.10.2016 | Event News
14.10.2016 | Event News
12.10.2016 | Event News
26.10.2016 | Power and Electrical Engineering
26.10.2016 | Awards Funding
26.10.2016 | Power and Electrical Engineering